If you can’t beat them, join them at the Kentucky Derby

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 9.56.26 PMAfter decades of fighting the scalping of Kentucky Derby tickets, Churchill Downs Racetrack announced Thursday that it is partnering with Ticketmaster to coordinate the resale of tickets to America’s greatest race.

In a sign of the times — is there any sport that doesn’t coordinate resale — this announcement drew little if any noticeable negative reaction. For a racetrack that has been known, at least in the past, to revoke the ticket eligibility of people found to be scalping them, previous partnerships with premium ticket brokers (remember TicketCity?) drew howls from people in the public who cried that it was a double standard. Others merely lamented that they’d lost their chance to get tickets again.

Scalping remains illegal in Kentucky and, presumably, Churchill will continue to oppose unauthorized resale.

The announcement noted the Kentucky Derby Ticket Exchange by Ticketmaster is “the only online resale marketplace to provide fans with a secure, reliable and convenient place to buy and resell tickets” for the Derby and the Longines Kentucky Oaks.

“The Kentucky Derby encourages fans seeking to buy or resell tickets to only use the Kentucky Derby Ticket Exchange,” Thursday’s announcement said. Last year, Churchill announced a deal with Ticketmaster to coordinate sales online on behalf of the track.

For what appears to be the first time, Churchill now explicitly authorizes the resale of Derby and Oaks tickets at prices above face value while being “assured that they meet all state and local regulations on ticket resales.” (Generally, premium packages already sold by the track or its partners include other elements like food or alcohol that are the basis of the upcharges.)


Precisely how the new arrangement gets around the Kentucky scalping ban isn’t detailed, but, for years, scalpers have been meeting just across the Ohio River in Indiana where scalping is legal. Presumably, this also is an out-of-state transaction.

The Ticketmaster website says sales are governed by Illinois law, which allows scalping by licensed brokers. (So, in this cyber context, the transaction still takes place “across the Ohio River,” just downriver.)

As of Thursday evening, the 1,307 ticket listings for Churchill ranged from $408 to $4,532 each. One also presumes this effort will help the publicly traded Churchill Downs Inc. to maximize further the profitability of its strongest racing asset — as it gets a cut or renumeration of some sort for the long-fought scalping and resale.




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